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Monthly Archives: April 2012
This was a Meetup I attended on Saturday – we congregated in front of the Episcopal church and wandered around Manitou Springs for a couple of hours. It was an formidable group of about 15 photographers armed with a variety of gear – mostly Nikon stuff I might add, though I did see one Canon guy and one lady shooting a Sony (that would be you, Cori!). There may have been others, but I didn’t notice. Jason Odell, a local professional organized the walk (see Jason’s photos at http://www.luminescentphoto.com/). There was plenty of eye-candy, that’s for sure! I saw a Nikon D4, a D3S, some really nice lenses and one guy actually had a D800. Okay, it’s official, when you start referring to cameras as “eye-candy” you’ve gone over the techno-geek cliff.
I’d never been to a photo-walk before and it was pretty close to what I envisioned. Jason gave everyone a run-down of where we would be heading and then we were off. After five minutes I had already separated from the group. A blue window had grabbed my attention and I took a bunch of shots, hoping I’d get one or two in focus (it was in an awkward position for shooting). I did and the result is the photo above.
Still, most everybody hung together overall. People would drift off and come back together later – there was no pressure to stay with the group, and really, how could there be? We were, for the most part, adults and could handle being apart from the others. Photographers seem to be a rather independent lot anyway.
The sun was intense, despite it being the morning, and fortunately I decided to bracket all my shots to varying degrees (some 1 stop, others up to 2). Glad I did too, there were times when, even bracketed, the highlights were blown to bits. I shot just over 300 photos in about four hours (yes, I said a couple hours above, but after the walk had officially ended I lingered for a while and took some additional images).
Manitou is a quirky little town, with a mix of old and new, steep streets, houses in nooks and crannies where you’d least expect them. When I was stationed at Ft. Carson in the 70s, Manitou was where all the hippie-types hung out. Guess what? They still do. However, instead of being peaceniks you have these kinds of people -pan-handling for Star Wars gaming pieces (or so I’m told). It’s all different now, yet somehow the same.
Though I didn’t get any spectacular images, my goal was to meet a few new photographers and gain a different perspective on how other people shoot and what kind of gear they use, and in that regard the day was a total success. The shot below is an old brick and stone oven built into the earth behind a restaurant currently operating – hopefully, they aren’t still using it!
To top it off, after I finished shooting I stopped at a coffee shop, had a cup of coffee and one of the best muffins (Strawberry-Blueberry) I’ve ever had. In case you haven’t realized – I thoroughly enjoyed the morning and won’t hesitate to participate in these types of events again.
Thanks for reading,
The title sounds like it could result in a lengthy entry, but it’s not. It could be, of course, but I normally prefer to distill verbiage down to its essence, to “bottom-line” it. Arguments can be made to the contrary, and they are, yet those arguments are a house of cards.
The other day I went out to Red Rocks Park (see my previous entry), specifically because there was a tree there I wanted to shoot. I’d been there last year shooting with my then new Nikon D7000 when I spotted this tree, stripped of its foliage, perched high on a stretch of red rock. I was immediately drawn to it as a subject and I used my Nikkor 70-300mm lens to capture it.
Later, when I worked with the resulting RAW files it never seemed as though the images were particularly sharp, even on the images using less than 200mm. I was dissatisfied and decided none of the photos were usable. That left the question of “Why were they not sharp?”. Turns out I was using a cheap Circular Polarizer on the lens and it was the culprit of the substandard photos. I made a mental note to return to get a good shot of the tree.
Fast-forward and I now have a batch of new shots. They are sharper, but remain unsatisfying. Why? I was there early, the light was decent, if not optimal. There were even a few clouds to add a bit of drama. I believe the problem is either one of two. It may not be a good subject – when I showed the photos to my wife she commented she never really liked that tree. It seems to lack “character”. The tree is bare, and the limbs tend to be straight, boring, with few offshoots to liven up the appearance. Or second, it may be the angle of the shot needs to be changed – instead of taking it from the side, perhaps from the bottom looking up with the red stone leading up to the tree would result in a more compelling image.
I may try once more; I suspect the result will not be much better.
I realize I didn’t really discuss “Recognizing Good Subjects” but, and here’s the distilled part, the “bottom-line” of it: a good subject is what you think a good subject is. Wow. Pretty simplistic, I know. However, I think it’s mostly true. I’ve seen technically excellent photos that, to me, have subjects that are a disaster or distasteful even though the image itself has received accolades, and the opposite is true too. Things I’ve considered good subjects in the eyes of others don’t work. They’re just opinions. And that may be a naïve opinion, but it keeps me from hanging crap on my walls!
The image above is one I really like – the clouds look good, the flyover has nice texture and is sharp. Mostly though, I like it because when I first looked at the image on my lcd screen on the back of the Sony I thought I had captured a car moving along so quickly it was just a blur. I was surprised when I opened it in Lightroom to discover what first appeared to be a moving car turned out to be a cloud. Excellent!
Thanks for reading,
I’m off to a Meetup shortly, so this post will be abbreviated today and I haven’t had the time to decide on the subject matter. We canceled our planned trip to Moab this last weekend due to the threat of storms. From the weather reports we were seeing, Moab was going to be fairly socked in both Saturday and Sunday. I’d monitored the forecast everyday and on Friday, I finally decided I didn’t want to waste the money on a trip that seemingly was guaranteed a wet time. How the actual weather fared, I don’t know and I don’t want to – once the decision was made, it was done.
We’ll make up for it in the near future – my one time in Moab was at the end of a three day mountain bike ride on the Kokopelli Trail from Fruita, Colorado to Moab. A spectacular, but very difficult ride.
Our Meetup this evening is called “What To Do when the Light Ain’t Right” and it’s something we, as photographers, often face. I frequently end up in a location during mid-day, when the light is so soft and warm (ha!), so I know what I do (look for shade mostly). We can never stop learning and hopefully I’ll pick up some good ideas on this. If so, I’ll post them here – may as well share the good fortune if there is any.
Today’s shot is from Red Rocks Park. I paid it a visit for a couple of hours this morning and my favorite shots weren’t of the red rocks, or the spring flowers starting to bloom. It was of this small outbuilding next to the Trading Post that got my attention.
There’s a story that goes along with my visit, but I’ll save that for a mid-week post, say Wednesday or Thursday. See you then!
Thanks for reading,
I continue to use the Sony Nex-5n in essentially a test mode, but that’s winding down now – it’s a keeper, with caveats.
I was out using it Friday to capture images for my ongoing project about Denver’s Light Rail, though I suspected I wouldn’t manage anything usable since I was out in the midday sun. I was correct about that – the light was harsh, brutal, glaring and out of the sixty or so images I captured, none will find their way into the finished project. However, I have to mention using the external EVF once again. I continue to be disappointed overall by its performance in real world working conditions – I’d return it except for the fact that it is better than the LCD panel alone. I guess I’m irritated by this because it’s marketed as the $350 panacea to the LCD and it’s not. Okay, I’m done with complaining about it.
As I mentioned last week, the image quality is the reason for keeping the camera, but little quirks keep popping up here and there, nothing that I’d consider a deal breaker (though I have been tempted…). The biggest of these little annoyances is how easy it is to accidentally push the Menu button. I’ll be holding the camera and bring it up to my eye for a shot and there’s the menu instead of the image. Backing out’s not a big deal unless there’s an image you see that requires a quick shot – if that’s the case, you’ve probably lost it.
This should be an enjoyable weekend coming up – we’re going to Moab for a couple days. I’m hoping to get some good dawn/dusk images from Arches National Park. We’ll be there only one full day so I’m trying to decide this week which of the arch(es) to photograph. Let’s see, there’s Balanced Rock, Delicate Arch, Double Arch, Tower Arch, Broken Arch, Landscape Arch, and many more, though some are pretty remote and I rule them out for this trip. Any favorites out there?
Thanks for reading,
Well, I’ve been using the Sony Nex-5n along with the 18-55 kit lens now for a week and thought I’d give a brief report on it. First off, I’m not a reviewer and I’m not going to be technical at all, so if your eyes are already starting to glaze over they can stop, these are only my non-technical impressions. For those who like their desserts first, here’s mine: I’m keeping the camera, despite its negatives, of which there are several.
I based my original decision on this purchase on reviews I had read and primarily on DP Review (http://dpreview.com). To me they seem to be the most rigorous with their testing. Maybe not. They rated the 5n at 79%, while the Nikon D7000 received an 80%. Perhaps the testing methodology is different for non-DSLR cameras, but if so, that should be stated up front. The only explanation I can think of for this might be the rating itself is heavily weighted in favor of image quality, and the bells and whistles only account for a very small percentage.
Let’s start with the LCD screen and the EVF. The LCD is unusable in bright sunlight. Period. End of story. Yes, you can see vague outlines of structures or people, washed out, no details, but that’s all. Forget composition. Forget waiting for the right expression on a person’s face before taking the image. Forget reviewing the photo you just shot. Not going to happen until heavy clouds roll in or you go inside. Enter the EVF. Better, yes. Optical finder replacement? Not yet. When its really bright out, even the EVF has problems with contrasty subjects and you still lose details. It’s definitely much, much better than the LCD screen, but it still has a ways to go. And $300+? Overpriced by a mile in my estimation.
Then we have the effects – the Twilight Hand-held, Panorama, HDR, etc. Lots of effects to choose from. But all shot in JPEG format. The twilight hand-held is one that’s touted a lot – but essentially it just jacks up the ISO, takes five quick shots and merges them into one noisy image. The automatic HDR doesn’t seem to be that effective either, though I’ll continue playing around with it under different lighting conditions. Bottom line on the effects – I think you can have a lot of fun with them as long as you don’t take them too seriously. The panorama feature looks interesting, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.
I mentioned the automatic HDR above, but you can also bracket your exposures and combine them in Photoshop or Photomatix Pro or any other HDR software. Unlike the Auto-HDR you can bracket with RAW files. The problem here is you can only bracket up to .7 EV. On my D7000 I can go two full stops either way.
Other negatives (my opinion, of course) include the menu system which seems cobbled together without a whole lot of thought. For example, Metering Mode is under the Brightness/Color selection, while Autofocus Mode is under the Camera selection. Auto ISO uses the full range of ISO available up to 25,600 – I’d never go above 3200 given a choice. Unfortunately, you can’t tell the camera what the maximum acceptable ISO or the minimum acceptable shutter speed is. In single-shot mode there’s a noticeable lag between releasing the shutter and seeing the image on the screen. The touch-screen is only moderately usable. The selection wheel is easy to depress when you’re trying just to rotate it. Last negative (so far), the kit-lens is pretty soft at the edges, and has a huge problem with flare. Okay – that’s it for the negatives – at least for now. I haven’t used everything yet, including video, so who knows? Oh, wait: battery life. Not so great.
So, after all that, why am I keeping it? With that rather long list of negatives it would seem like I should have this thing packed up and on its way back to the camera store. Well, overall, I like the images it produces and since I shoot raw, and in Aperture priority 90% of the time it does what I ask of it. I like the portability. I like the thought of getting an adapter and using my existing lens collection with it. I like the APS sized sensor. And I like the JPEG processing it applies (even though I rarely use JPEGs). I’ve heard some people complain that it overdoes it, but I don’t think so. Looks good. Oh, wait: battery life indicator – I do like that it reflects a percentage of power left.
That’s it – like I mentioned, I haven’t discovered everything the camera offers, but the main thing, shooting raw in Aperture mode with a decent sized sensor is the reason I bought it and for that, it delivers.
Thanks for reading,